Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nine days four races sun rain grey mud

Cyclocross is Sarajevo ?
My Cyclocross odyssey fittingly began on the grounds of the former Washington State Mental Hospital outside of Sedro Woolley Washington.  The inmates patients cared for animals in between experiments (the hospital was a pioneer in lobotomies).  It looks and feels as creepy as a Stephen King novel.  It was fun racing there, but I wouldn't spend the night there for a million bucks.

As we drove north for the Saturday race the skies were so dark it was scary.  We arrived to find damp ground and a cool welcoming vibe. The race "Woolley Cross" is part of the Cascade Cross series and was a fun, informal day of racing.
The course featured long (3.4K) laps on a mix of speed sucking grass and soft gravel.  There was one switchback on the whole course.  I think the laps included three, no maybe four zip codes.  This was the only cyclocross course where I should have worn my RoadID.  I think I saw a polar bear near the run up.
Evo loving the mud in the hinterlands of Sedro Woolley
I had to race as a 40+ master.  It gave me a chance to mix it up with a few of the guys I raced with back when I first started.  I beat them, which made me happy.  By the last lap we were so strung out I considered stopping and asking directions to make sure I was still on course.
The next day dawned with the best light Hottie had seen in years at a Cyclocross race.
I felt pretty good the second day of the weekend. Legs not fresh, but not hurting either.
Racing through "the crack"
I was worried the course would be a flat grass crit. The MFG race had a creative mix of pavement, grassy chicanes and two sustained power climbs and a loose gravel downhill.  On the first lap I felt my right quad bark, and in true Jens-like fashion, I ignored my legs.  I kept El Jefe in my sight as the laps ticked by.  He slowly pulled away but I was finding other riders to chase.  I would pass riders on the climbs and power sections and try to hang on during the technical sections.
Evo cresting the climb and claiming another victim
The day was long as Hottie and I stayed for the last race. The team broke down the tent and it was laid beside the war wagon awaiting loading.  I was happy with my race as I felt stronger each lap.  It made for a long weekend.

After the only regular work week of October (business travel has been killing me) we were back racing on Saturday at the MFG race at Marymoor.  It was bombing rain and we were promised a muddy party.
The sharp eye will note the MUD on my bike.
The rain reminded me of some things I had almost forgotten.  How exhilarating it is to have your back wheel sliding around "hook and ladder" style, how slow you can go when pushing hard on level ground and how useless your brakes can be when wet.  The race was a combination of tractor pull mud sections and and endless selection of greasy off camber sections. "Low pressure" was the phrase whispered between friends.
Out of the mud mines and into your dreams !  The Three Mudsketers !
I busted out the embrocation and the smell of cyclocross was in the air.  In the starting straight a rider in front of me went sideways and although he kept it upright, I was nervous. I was  cautious and near the back and then I started moving up as we strung out.  I settled in and looked ahead on a switchback laden section for El Jefe, and spotted him behind me. The laps ticked on and I kept my gap on him.  It wasn't my plan or ambition to beat him, but I was ahead and wanted to stay there.

On the fourth lap a rider went down in front of me on a short climb and I had to dab and claw the last bit. Then, because I was still huffing from the climb I tried to ride a section I had run (very successfully) on earlier laps. I slid around and lost momentum.  Then on an endless off camber I ran outrigger style (shoe unclipped) and slid off the other side. When I finally got going after a sharp turn I noted my huge gap on El Jefe was down to almost nothing. I got out of the saddle and cranked.  To my surprise I had some power and held my spot.

The final chapter in my epic was the 2012 version of Seattle Cyclocross at Sprinker park. Sprinker has always been good to me and I was up for a fine finale to our race fest. We brought Tux and hoped for good weather.
The announcer gave me some shout outs as "head-wound guy"
I was distracted before my race and didn't ride a full lap of warmup.  I rode a couple sections, but my haste would cost me.  On the first lap I was caught off guard by a couple new twists as compared to the courses of prior years.  The grass was fairly tacky and then you hit a slippery off camber and all bets are off. Then we hit a section that was new in this year's edition that had some loose loamy dirt in an "S" curve that caused me to stop cold to avoid going off course. 

A long power section that allowed me to open up was welcome and the laps started ticking past. I didn't have a ton of power and the course had a herd of short power sections followed by tight corners so your efforts to generate speed were all capped with hard braking.   I was glad to see the words, "You are DONE" on the lap board.  Tux was so well behaved it is hard to relate. When he was on leash on the course he didn't react to the cowbells or riders.  When it was time to sit in the car during my race he settled in like he had been looking forward to the break.  What a pup!
Tux was looking for a place to donate his "sample"
When the racing was done on Sunday I had over fifty miles of twisty turning races in nine days.  Hottie had a few thousand pictures up on Smugmug and there was plenty of laundry and one dirty bike.

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